New research has confirmed the fears of many safety experts regarding new car features. In-vehicle devices intended to entertain or guide drivers are a serious distraction and encourage hazardous behavior. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted an analysis of some of these systems and found that they left drivers distracted for more than 40 seconds for some functions. Previous AAA studies show that a distraction which takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 2 seconds increases the risk of an accident by 100 percent.

An old problem with new facets

Cars have long come equipped with devices not related to operating a vehicle. Spinning a radio dial was a distraction in vehicles long before infotainment devices were ever considered. The new technology offers a tempting array of distractions that radio and air conditioning buttons didn’t match. The new devices could see drivers attempting to answer text messages or program a GPS while barreling down the road.

The voice of distraction

Some of the new systems can be run largely, if not entirely using voice commands. While this reduces one of the dangers associated with distracted driving, it does not resolve the problem. Any task that takes a driver’s mind off of safe driving is a danger. The AAA study looked at the technology’s capacity to take a driver’s eyes off the road, as well as its capacity to take their mind off the road. Tasks that were confusing or mentally taxing have greater power to distract drivers than those that can be accomplished easily.

An unequal level of distraction

The study reviewed 30 different infotainment systems. It found a relatively wide range in terms of the demands each placed on a driver’s attention. Of the 30, 23 were characterized as placing high or very high demand on drivers attempting to complete tasks such as making a phone call, sending a text, programming the GPS or tuning the radio.

Car makers should carefully consider the safety impact of any technology included in their vehicles. That includes devices that could be potentially deadly distractions for vehicle operators.

Source: AAA NewsRoom, “New Vehicle Infotainment Systems Create Increased Distractions Behind the Wheel,” by Tamra Johnson, 5 October 2017